January 29, 2009

Snowwalker

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction at 10:15 pm by caelesti

Snowwalker by Catherine Fisher

When Jessa & her cousin Thorkil are banished to the north by the sorceress Gudrun who has enchanted their land, they expect death. In a ruined castle they encounter her son, rumored to be a monster but he is more than what he seems. Thus begins an amazing adventure set in medieval Scandinavia (or Iceland) that culminates in a showdown with Gudrun beyond the world’s end.

I found the plot of Snowwalker to be as enthralling as Gudrun’s spells, and the characters had a lot of depth to them. This was actually published as a trilogy in the UK- The Snowwalker’s Son, The Empty Hand and The Soul Thieves. I had not heard of Catherine Fisher or this book before, just stumbled across it in the library and I’m glad I did! I’ll definitely be looking for more of her work.

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Inkheart

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen/Young Adult at 10:13 pm by caelesti

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

I had planned on reading this book for a while but when I heard a film version was coming out soon, I decided to go ahead and read it.

Wouldn’t it be fun if characters from books could come to life into our world? Sure, but it turns out it’s not all fun and games as the protagonists of Inkheart discover.

Young Meggie enjoys travelling with her father, a bookbinder and listening to the stories he tells her. But her father has a secret, and when a mysterious fellow called Dustfinger appears one day, this begins to be revealed. Inkheart had a charming and whimsical flavor to it. It took a while for things to be set up for the plot to get going, but for those with patience, there are some treats in store. I also liked that there was psychological exploration of the villain, he wasn’t just a stereotypical bad guy.

Twilight

Posted in Fiction, Teen/Young Adult, Vampires at 10:12 pm by caelesti

Twilight by Stephenie Meyers (Book 1 of the Twilight Saga)

I hadn’t gotten to reading this before seeing the movie, but after we saw it together, my friend lent me the book.

I liked some aspects of Twilight, like the vivid descriptions that I found quite poetic. I thought how she tied a Native American legend into it was unique and interesting. (I wonder if it is a real legend- I looked it up and did find that it is a real tribe that lives in Washington). I sort of like Bella, as I tend to identify with underdog, nerdy characters but think she needs to be a stronger character. Edward I suppose has a certain appeal, but there’s something about him that’s creepy. He seems to be written to fulfill the fantasy of an old-fashioned chivalrous guy that protects you. Is there is a message being sent about how girls should play a passive role- or are human-vampire romances just inherently unequal? Maybe I’m over-analyzing…I really like Alice and some of the other Cullens and would like to see more of their stories.

I am still going to read the next book in hopes that Bella develops more as a character, and her relationship with Edward matures. Plus I’m just plain curious to see what happens and it will be more fun since I won’t already know the plot from the film.

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Being Liberal in an Illiberal Age

Posted in Nonfiction, Religion, Unitarian Universalism at 10:10 pm by caelesti

Being Liberal in an Illiberal Age: Why I am a Unitarian Universalist by Jack Mendelsohn

There are some books I have a hard time reviewing, because they have so many ideas in them that no one thing sticks out, and I have trouble remembering what struck me, positively or negatively about the book- this is such a book.
Mendelsohn covers a lot- the history of Unitarians & Universalists, their relation to Christianity, the religious education of children, the nature and existence of God, ethics and social justice

His reactions to traditional Christian doctrine in his youth that he recounts was something I really identified with- I had many of the same responses- rejecting original sin, hell, needing someone to “die for our sins”. I questioned the Trinity, parts of the Bible and communion.

Despite the diversity of views in the UUA, I suspect some of his beliefs are pretty typical of many UUs: a belief in a very transcendent, Deist-like God, doubt about the afterlife, an emphasis on living a good life and use of reason in religion as with other areas of life. Reading about his theological views helped me clarify my own beliefs. I don’t really see the point of believing in such a distant God- if that was the only conclusion I could come to I would probably just be an agnostic or atheist. In the end of the book he discusses prayer- why bother praying to a “God” who is more like the force of gravity than a conscious being with willpower?
He gives examples of petitionary prayer that are rather absurd and extreme- but I don’t think asking the Divine for help in some way is necessarily like that

If that is the philosophy that makes sense and works best, more power to him. But I do think the UUs who essentially worship logic are missing out on something.

Transitions

Posted in Nonfiction, Psychology at 10:08 pm by caelesti

Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges

(Revised 25th Anniversary Edition)

The Career Transitions group at my church was working with this book and I found it very helpful. Bridges distinguishes between changes- a shift in one’s situation- moving, new job, marriage, divorce, death of family member etc. and transition- the psychological reactions one goes through as a result of the change. He studied how various traditional cultures structure rites of passage to help people move through transitions, and notes that they are often much better at dealing with these things than our seemingly advanced modern culture. He explains how we go through a 3 stage of transition process- Ending, Neutral Zone in which you are in neither one stage or another and feeling lost, and Beginning. This book is relevant to people in many different life situations and so you can return to it again when going through another transition for more insight. It really helped me make sense of many of my experiences and feel less lost and confused.

-On a another note, I find it rather apt that the author is named “Bridges”. Coincidence or no?